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Brittany Vincent

Review: Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters

May 09 // Brittany Vincent
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters (PS3, Vita [reviewed])Developer: Toybox Inc. Publisher: Aksys GamesReleased: March 10, 2015 MSRP: $39.99 You're the newest transfer student to have enrolled at Kurenai Academy, and as such the game wastes no time in getting you to provide your own personal information to give you the impression that the protagonist is little more than an imprint of you. From your height to your blood type, it's all about fitting yourself into the player character, which ties into a decidedly different yet very refreshing branching dialogue system upon which a good portion of the game is built upon. I'll get to that later, but know that after you've customized your character properly, you're embarking on a brand new career with a high school ghost-hunting establishment. After meeting up with a shy young woman named Sayuri Mifune and nondescript male student Masamune Shiga, you're quickly whisked away to join the Gate Keepers, or Kurenai Academy's version of, for all intents and purposes, a ghost-hunting club for after-school mischief. The Gate Keepers meet in a stereotypically crowded club area daily to take on new clients, all of whom are being haunted in some way by wayward spirits who haven't yet passed over to the other side. When you take on a new client, it's as if you're starting a new episode of an anime series, complete with its own opening credits and ending, which ends up lending a refreshing lilt to content that may otherwise feel alien in the visual novel-laden segments of the game. You and your teammates tackle each assignment by delving into dungeon-styled arenas that conjure images of the classic Shin Megami Tensei games, where you're essentially playing a modified strategic grid-based game of Go or Chess. After choosing the gear you'll need to ward off specific ghosts (salt for keeping ghosts at bay and other equipment) you and your team are thrown into a grueling game of remote ghostbusting. Each chapter prefaces the capture of the ghost of the moment (think "magical girl" anime "demon of the week" format) with bit of story told in the typical static background, slightly animated character, and accompanying text style of visual novels. The characters themselves are given gorgeous, beautifully-detailed portraits that swap as they speak, despite how dry the script can be, and their accompanying environments are great-looking as well. These segments take up a bulk of the game aside from "dungeon' exploration, though I didn't have enough for my tastes, especially given the wheel that allows you to interact with other NPCs. It pops up seemingly at random when you're engaged in conversation with others, and contains two different tiers of options to select in order to respond to others. You can choose from a happy face, sad face, confused face, handshake, and an angry face. It's easy enough to decipher -- this denotes the type of response you're going to give on an emotional level. The second wheel corresponds to each of the five senses: eyes, nose, ears, hands, and mouth and the senses they represent, obviously. The game doesn't do an excellent job of communicating to you what these wheels do, but it's fairly simple to figure out. Where the game missteps is by serving up options and actions that don't always correlate with the emotion you want. For instance, if you wanted to be friendly you might choose a loving face and a hand to touch someone, right? The game might not see it that way. It may instead spawn a completely opposite reaction, which can alter your interactions with other characters in a very frustrating way. Perhaps I was going about it incorrectly, but after consulting the official video from Aksys Games that talked about it in length and referencing the manual, which did little to explain it, I realized I just needed to go with it. So I did, resulting in my character becoming some sort of bizarre lecher who used his tongue way more than I feel like he should have. Luckily, there's a diverse and interesting cast of characters to spend time with, and much like the Persona series, each have their own strange little quirks. So you won't have to feel so out of place when you use your hands or eyes in situations where you really shouldn't. The bulk of the game, however, isn't driven by emotion or intent. It's a cold, calculating exercise that's both vexing and challenging at the same time. For each ghost you're setting out to catch, you're given a stipend for supplies, which you'll purchase and set up before each episode. There's a chess-like board upon which you'll set up moves to attack and change positions, though all of the avatars on the board (viewed isometrically) will move at the same time. Most of the time, you'll have no idea where the ghost is, so as the timer ticks down to nothing, you're constantly forced to think about how to best push the ghost to you. Do you put down salt to ensure the ghost can't escape a certain area? Do you push all of your teammate to corner it? What happens when you finally corner the ghost? You get a good look at the ghost of course, as the action switches to first-person a la Shin Megami Tensei: Soul Hackers or games of that ilk, and you see your party landing hits and doing damage. Defeating the bigger boss ghost of each episode wraps up the chapter, and it's done, done, onto the next one from there. It sounds very simple on paper, but it's likely you won't immediately understand any of this. There's a tutorial section at the beginning of the dungeon sections that you can turn to, but after that you're basically thrown to the wolves. I had to spend hours perfecting the system, and even after putting weeks into the game I'm still a little rusty. I learned the ins and outs and peculiarities of the system, but I still feel as though I could have done better. The game should have taken more pains to explain itself, especially since it's such an alternative style of play. But that's what makes Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters so entertaining. It won't hold your hand or force you through a million tutorials. There's a hint of unpredictability that you just don't get from most games anymore, even the niche titles, and that's the main reason I pressed on even when I got frustrated. That's also one of the reasons you'll be spending plenty of time with the game, aside from the fact that there are several side missions, a board game in the hub area, and other surprises to engage you. There aren't as many secret weapons or awesome-looking ghostbusting tools as I would have hoped for, but such is life. Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is certainly one of the most unique titles the Vita has seen or will see by far, and while it can take an astronomical amount of getting used to, it's absolutely worth investing time in. What other game is going to let you bite someone's nose in error when you meant to make a friendly gesture? I rest my case.
Tokyo Twilight photo
More Vita goodness
Whenever the Vita's library expands, I always get unreasonably excited. Double excited if there's a new IP to add to the fold, because I'm seeing a lot of sequels these days. That's why I was ecstatic to hear that Toybox Game...

Goodbye, Dtoid! photo
Goodbye, Dtoid!

I'm leaving Destructoid, deuces!

~*Vuil-geboosted gang$ta*~
Apr 27
// Brittany Vincent
Hey there, space cats. It's your old pal Brittany Stormborn of House Destructoid, Queen of the Weeaboos and the First Otaku, Khaleesi of the Great Plains, Breaker of Bust A Groove 2 Jewel Cases, and Mother of Niche/Rare Games...

Review: Story of Seasons

Mar 31 // Brittany Vincent
Story of Seasons (Nintendo 3DS)Developer: MarvelousPublisher: XSEED GamesReleased: March 31, 2015MSRP: $39.99 The alternative moniker isn’t indicative of a “reboot” of the games or anything like that, however. It simply represents the fact that the Harvest Moon name has changed hands from previous publisher Natsume to XSEED Games. Developer Marvelous has crafted a game that’s much more deserving of the title than Natsume’s recent effort Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, and fans have something meaty and entertaining to look forward to within. But first, a bit of a history lesson. Harvest Moon's life began on the Super Nintendo, where it was known as Bokujō Monogatari, which roughly translates to "Farm Story." It was a novelty then as it is now: a game where you spend your days taking care of cows and harvesting crops as the seasons gently roll through spring, summer, fall, and winter. The goal, ultimately, is to build a house, woo a girl (it was always a girl in the early days), and settle down into a peaceful, pastoral existence.  [embed]289757:57980:0[/embed] Story of Seasons is an interesting amalgamation of what made these games exciting upon their descent into western culture interesting back when I was younger and continues to make them addictive in a modern setting. As it happens, there’s also an astronomical amount of things to do. This has to be the biggest, most sprawling farm sim game related to Harvest Moon I’ve seen so far, in terms of both management aspects and activities to perform. Harvest Moon: A New Beginning is similar in many ways, but it seems Story of Seasons has expanded on it significantly.  Luckily the beginning of the game isn’t so complicated, only offering you the chance to figure out who you want to use as your avatar throughout your adventure. It’s good to begin with something you can manage that’s as simple as deciding who you want to be. You can choose to play as a male or female farmer, both tasked with heading to the sleepy Oak Tree Town, in dire need of a skilled farmer to care for one of the town’s sprawling ranches. You’re neither skilled nor a farmer when you start out, but that’s what makes Story of Seasons so exciting: throwing caution to the wind and heading out to pursue a new profession in an unknown place to help a town in need. There are plenty of other farmers in town to help show you the ropes and ensure you know all there is to know before you plant your first seeds. Together, all four of you can hopefully restore Oak Tree Town’s Trade depot back to its former glory, with the right amount of crops and care. There’s a long road ahead of you, though, and a ridiculous amount of training required before you can even set foot in your own farm. It’s off to Eda, longtime resident of Oak Tree town, to act as your mentor as she prepares you to plant, water, and harvest crops, raise farm animals, how to use and upgrade tools used around the farm, and important information like your Health and Stamina. It’s a wealth of information that can feel like a slog to get through at first, and can feel overwhelming at first. This is absolutely not a fast-moving game. You’ll need some patience to take in all of the little things that you’ll find truly add up by the end of your farming internship, but sticking to it feels extremely rewarding. That’s where Story of Seasons tends to differ from Natsume’s “traditional” Harvest Moon games the most. Rather than arriving at a farm and getting started immediately, you’re given extensive training before allowed to set foot in a farm that’s in any way yours. Even your starter area is adjacent to Eda’s, as if the folks at Marvelous don’t quite trust you with your own area yet, supplanting new features and other additions as you go along. Unlike similar titles in the past, you’ve got more to worry about than if you watered your crops for the day or if your character is looking a bit haggard while tending to crops out in the rain. Your character’s Health and Stamina play central roles in keeping your farm efficient and productive, and there are plenty of ways to satisfy both requirements beyond simply going to bed. For instance, you can eat a small meal, head to a hot spring, or rest in order to ensure your health is restored, but losing it is another deal entirely. This time around even if you do something as small as walk outside during a torrential downpour, you’ll see your health drop, just as you would if you decided to stay up late in-game. In this, it lends a more realistic lilt to farming life. Along with the stamina points, represented by the number of hearts your farmer has on-screen, it communicates the message that farmers are still fragile, often weary human beings who need time and training to work themselves to the bone and keep themselves healthy. Luckily, the two difficulty modes (Normal and Seedling) offer options for players looking to keep things light. Seedling Mode finds stamina consumption levels lowered by 50%, which makes for a completely different experience when starting out, as do the positive multipliers on store items, prices, stock, and more. New players may consider Seedling Mode as a viable option when becoming acquainted with Story of Seasons, as there are alterations between that and Normal Mode that are indeed a boon for newbies looking to get started quickly and with fewer frustrations. Speaking of making things easier, farming feels much more convenient than before. You can work with a 3x3 area when working with watering, planting, and the like, and you can hold down your action button while walking to continue with what you’re doing. If you want to water crops you can keep walking around. If you’re planting seeds, your character will scatter them in the air. It all feels quite intuitive. Controls work with you rather than against you. The only way you might falter is if you find yourself struggling with the in-game tasks constantly thrown at you, and the multitude of extra assignments available to take on. Managing your farm becomes simpler the more you learn about doing it, but there are still several things to keep track of, including your farm house, animals, the crops you’re tending to, and special sheds that can be used to convert raw materials like dairy products and the like into useable food items like cheese or yogurt. You can make clothing, pottery, seasonings, engineer seeds and crops, and more at the Maker Sheds, all of which are extremely important when your farm is up and running proper. There’s a large variety of crops to keep up with as well, including special Super Mario Bros. crops like Super Mushrooms and Fire Flowers. These are interesting, cheeky additions that feel right at home on the 3DS, and when you harvest Super Stars to ensure the crops you have remain fresh. Aside from working on the farm, there are multiple interactions you’ll have with villagers and other NPCs. Some of these can lead to special relationships that can end in marriage and children, and others will give you gifts, interact with you, and befriend you as you make your way as a farmer in Oak Tree Town. These help keep things light, but also act as reprieves from the toil of day-to-day proceedings of planting seeds, harvesting crops, exporting goods for sale, and ensuring your farm remains profitable. Much like real life, offering a chance to interact with others, build relationships, and participate in events and activities beyond that of simple hard work provides several benefits. You’ll find as a player that you’ll appreciate these personable interactions as much as the satisfaction of cultivating a successful farm. Story of Seasons looks fantastic, feels great, and offers an overabundance of things to do and places to see. It’s a farmer’s paradise, though its almost excruciatingly slow tutorial and internship will take a large amount of patience to get through if you’re to see all the game has to offer, and there is a lot. Expect to clear your calendar for this excellent portable farming sim, as you’ll be spending several hours turning a profit to impress the townsfolk of Oak Tree Town, your future husband or wife, or even your friends playing alongside you.
Story of Seasons  photo
For every sim, there is a season
As a fan of both casual and intermediate simulation and farming games, the Harvest Moon series has always been a mainstay for me. I grew up on several different iterations of the Natsume-published entries beginning with Harve...

P4: Dancing All Night photo
P4: Dancing All Night

Persona 4: Dancing All Night's Japanese box art is appropriately groovy

I'd expect nothing less
Mar 25
// Brittany Vincent
Persona 4: Dancing All Night is still slated for a Western release in 2015, but it's headed for Japanese Vita owners on June 25. I'm eagerly gobbling up every single scrap Atlus tosses out until the official release, so check...

Final Fantasy photo
Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy Record Keeper headed to a smartphone near you this spring

It was somewhat inevitable
Mar 13
// Brittany Vincent
This year, Square Enix is makin' it rain Final Fantasy spinoffs on us. I mean, we've got Final Fantasy Type-0 HD coming in hot just next week, and DeNA and Square Enix just revealed the launch of Final Fantasy: Record Keeper ...
Bravely Second  photo
Bravely Second

Bravely Second's trailer shows off additional features

No Western confirmation date just yet
Mar 12
// Brittany Vincent
The latest Bravely Second: End Layer trailer has been making the rounds, and the Japanese-language clip is full of additional features that can be found in-game, such as the Brave and Default commands, job classes, battle me...
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt photo
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Here's what you'll find in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Xbox One Collector's Edition

The real-life version of Gwent sounds pretty cool
Mar 07
// Brittany Vincent
Hyped for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt? Looking to throw down for the Collector's Edition? If you're not sure whether you want the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One version, this video might help sway you. Major Nelson has posted a vide...

Review: Criminal Girls: Invite Only

Mar 07 // Brittany Vincent
Criminal Girls: Invite Only (PS Vita [Reviewed], PlayStation TV)Developer: imageepochPublisher: NIS AmericaReleased: February 3, 2015MSRP: $39.99 Criminal Girls pulls you right down into Hell with a brand new job ahead of you. You're now Warden to a menagerie of young women who acted out during their time in the land of the living and are now suffering for it. Your goal is to push each one through a so-called "Redemption Program" so that they might become rehabilitated members of society. If they can complete the trials and tribulations ahead of them, they can escape eternal damnation. Not one of them like you, however, so motivating them or even getting them to do what you want can be a monumental task. As such, the girls act independently of you during pivotal game moments. You're given four of them to rehabilitate to begin with, and tasked with seeking out the rest as you play. There's a very unique battle system in place as you navigate Hell, and to complicate matters further monsters and other nasties begin popping out that you must contend with. This means while you're working on getting these wayward souls rehabilitated, you'll have to deal with monster encounters as well. [embed]288638:57646:0[/embed] When you're thrust into battle, you don't select which attacks you'd like for the girls to perform. Instead, they will suggest their own moves, and you can select the one that makes the most sense. While this could result in moments where one team member is in dire need of healing or damage isn't dealt because there wasn't a suggested offensive attack, most of the time it works quite well. You can choose from four different options each match as well, so you're usually served up at least one action that makes sense in the context of battles. It's not difficult or even a bad battle system, but there are some bizarre machinations in place you'll have to work with in order to be successful, and that stems from the "Motivation" sequences you're required to take part in. As previously mentioned, your new female charges don't like you very much. Motivation finds you dripping things onto the girls or even prodding them with cattle prod-like devices in order to get them to cooperate. The girls will assume sexually suggestive poses, though they're mostly enshrouded in a strange pink mist (I'll call it the adult fog of war) and stay silent while you "motivate" them using the touch screen to simulate a BDSM-style punishment. These sexual mini-games are comprised of several tiers, though the girls are never completely nude in-game. As you complete your motivational tasks, each girl will come to you with a specific Order that you need to complete. Basically, you'll be asked to find an item, a piece of equipment, a snack, or other special item the girl would like from you. You'll want to do all you can with this system in order to earn new moves, combos, and other useful mechanics for use against the game's plentiful enemies. In short, motivational moments are completely necessary, and while the game is actually a very competent role-playing game without these segments, as always, it will be touted as completely inane and unnecessarily sexual. The time you put in with Motivation games, fighting off enemies, collecting specific Order items, and getting to know the girls is extremely rewarding, however. Throughout the course of the game you'll come to learn more and more about each of the diminutive delinquents, like why Ran's such a little firecracker or why some of the girls have diffficulty chatting with you at all. The beauty of it all is you can experience character growth while still enjoying a title that's simple to pick up and put down with little fanfare. It's perfectly at home on the Vita, though it's clear that many of the backgrounds and areas you must explore were in fact recycled from the original PSP version of the game. Not too big of an issue, but it can clash a bit with the emotive and vibrant anime-styled character portraits. Completing the compulsory mini-games may be uncomfortable for some players, but Criminal Girls: Invite Only is very much a competent game and deserves a look, especially if you've all but converted your Vita at this point into a waifu-collection machine. That's basically what I've done. The edits to the original Japanese version are tasteful, the girls are witty, and the battles are engaging in a very "mobile game" sort of way. You can decide how you feel about motivating these young women on your own, but for me? It feels right! I'm going to make upright citizens out of these ladies yet.  [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Criminal Girls photo
What they need is a good defense
We all know the PlayStation Vita is now the de facto home for all things Japanese. Ports, remakes, re-releases, and original content all trickle down similarly to the little handheld that could, and the Vita port of 2010's PS...

Xenoblade Chronicles X photo
Xenoblade Chronicles X

Xenoblade Chronicles X combat explored in 30-minute livestream

All you need to know and more
Mar 07
// Brittany Vincent
Nintendo of Japan recently streamed a live Xenoblade Chronicles X presentation, detailing the game's intricate combat system for eager viewers around the globe. The 30-minute video is available for viewing in full, and it go...
Wolfenstein: TNB photo
Wolfenstein: TNB

Check out 20 minutes of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood in action

Mein Luftkissenfahrzeug ist voller Aale!
Mar 07
// Brittany Vincent
There's a $20 standalone expansion to Wolfenstein: The New Order, and it's called Wolfenstein: The Old Blood. You aren't nearly as excited about this as you should be. I've got just the remedy here. Check out 20 minutes of f...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Tell Harmonix to put the entirety of '...Like Clockwork' in Rock Band 4

Really, just urge them to include the QOTSA discography
Mar 06
// Brittany Vincent
Looking forward to Rock Band 4 just as much as I am? You're probably wondering how the upcoming roster is going to look. Me too. In fact, I'm pretty concerned. I dropped a pretty penny on hundreds of songs, with 70% of them i...

Why do some developers shy away from surrealism in gaming?

Mar 04 // Brittany Vincent
These games are an interesting alternative to the wealth of first-person shooters and survival-horror games that populate the market, and every one of them brings something special to the table. But the big guys remain reluctant to step into the fringes when it comes to worldbuilding. With the incredible power of today’s computers and consoles, there’s a definite push for realism in videogames. Some argue that we are on the cusp of producing photorealistic graphics, and while we’re not there yet, it’s impossible to deny just how good some of these big-budget games look. With that power has come the push for narrative gravity to back it up. In recent years, the story of a game has become a very large focus, with series like BioShock and The Last of Us drawing critical acclaim for the complex and emotional tales they weave. In an industry that seems to be trending toward the use of cinematics in gaming, it likely seems a big risk to try and approach things from a different angle. A title like Playdead’s Limbo, the silent and unsettling tale of a boy lost in the woods, likely doesn't trigger the same mass appeal that more conventional, realism-centric games have. The game industry is a gigantic money-maker. It has grown from a child’s plaything to a behemoth catering to a largely adult demographic. Like any business, it’s profitable to produce what people want. Right now, the trend is heavily weighted toward big-budget titles that cater to online play. These games sell, because mainstream gaming has changed from a single-player experience to a social one. The type of game that sold in 1994 has changed from the normal jumping-off point to a far more niche genre. Games that don’t cater to the online crowd just don’t sell as well. There’s a sort of divide that has developed in demographics because of the wealth of options available. People are playing games for different reasons. There’s base entertainment, yes, but think back to games like Bionic Commando or Super Mario World. They were an adventure and a challenge, just like many other games you experienced by yourself. Neither focused too hard on trying to tell a complex story, or present a moral or philosophical quandary, and they certainly weren’t capable of creating a social network, beyond the experience of eating too much pizza and trying to beat Bowser during a sleepover. This shouldn’t be viewed as a limitation, but a wholly separate experience. That’s what games like Studio MDHR’s Cuphead look capable of capturing -- that sense of nostalgia, wonder, and challenge that came with early video gaming. It may be a rosy perspective, but there’s something undeniably enthralling about the surreal worlds of older games. Perhaps the shift in age demographics has taken a bit of the wonder with it. We remember playing games even as recent as Super Mario Sunshine and Jak & Daxter and being awestruck by the cartoony worlds and the invitations extended to us. No, they were not worlds we could relate to, but they were so much larger than life, and more fantastic and colorful than any place you could ever imagine. Cuphead in particular is doing something practically unheard of, replicating the animation style of 1930s cartoons. The animation is gorgeous, and even has the same distortion and grainy look of old Technicolor cartoons. It’s definitely different, and it’s a ton of work to create. To quote the developer, “There haven't been any even medium-scale projects that use this style in the last 20 years.” Something as cool and different as Cuphead is totally in the realm of the big developers that make games for profit, but it’s the guys who are investing their own savings into their dream that are doing it, because it’s their dream, and not just because they’ve got a profit to make. One of the most interesting things about games developed without profit as the number one goal are the chances that are taken. Take a game like Honeyslug’s Hohokum, described by some as an “art game.” It lacks traditional interface, and there is no “point.” You navigate a serpent through a number of bizarre worlds, completing vague objectives in a completely non-linear fashion. There are no points, no time limit, and nothing in the way of a tutorial. Publisher SCE Santa Monica painted the game as something to simply be felt, describing it as "relaxing in a space and just enjoying the experience and the music, instead of trying to complete it to make progress." Though it was accused by some of lacking substance, it raises an important question: What exactly should a game be? Though the modern videogame landscape feels to many overpopulated with derivative titles and sequels that don’t innovate, it’s a refreshing thought to consider that there are still developers out there who are experimenting. Adding to, stripping away, completely turning concepts on their head. There is no shortage of interesting games to be found away from the mainstream, but right now they are not what is ultimately selling. If the industry is going to grow and change for the better, people have got to start responding more to these developers that are out there taking risks, for better or worse. That’s how they did it in the beginning. That’s how they’ll do it up until the bitter end… until the fear’s subsided.
Surrealism  photo
If loving surrealism is wrong, I don't want to be right
When it comes to crafting videogames out of the norm, there’s one question developers should ask themselves: What are we afraid of? Games are the perfect medium for exploration of bizarre, unnatural worlds, and yet it s...

Bombshell photo

3D Realms' Bombshell returns with a tiny bit more hair

Still rocking a slight Skrillex cut
Mar 03
// Brittany Vincent
Last May I broke the news about 3D Realms' upcoming Bombshell, and the typical '90s-esque trailer was decidedly light on gameplay but generous with clichéd teaser elements. Now there's a proper trailer out to dissect ...

Y2K is a surrealist fantasy told through the lens of a Murakami-loving hipster

Feb 26 // Brittany Vincent
[embed]288166:57516:0[/embed] Instead, I found myself annoyed and impatient. And uncomfortable. The music played on, instilling a sense of "everything's going to be okay, but at the same time it's totally not." Like going home when you've got a terrible report card in the mailbox, or when you receive a text message stating that you and your significant other "need to talk" but there's no context as to what kind of talk you're going to have. And then, as if to make matters worse in every way, your cell signal goes out.  I couldn't shake that uneasy feeling as the game progressed. Alex eventually arrived at the bus station to an empty town, with clear streets as far as the eye could see save for a pair of girls on bicycles. I stood in front of them hoping I could stop them, and one did stop to look at me, but continued on her way. Unfortunately, before then Alex had already immediately begun flapping his gums as I followed the floating objective text on-screen to "go home." I didn't have subtitles to keep my interest (I assume due to the early nature of the build I was using) so his needlessly verbose narration fell on deaf ears most of the time, especially when he started describing how he never left the house. There's a time and place for self-indulgent reflective dialogue, but fresh off the bus wasn't it.  At that point I realized I wasn't sure how I felt about the game, having been irritated nonstop by a constant flow of "look at how unique we're being!" design decisions and Alex's narration. I was thankful for the eventual dialogue boxes that popped up later on during exploration to keep me engaged while my eyes darted around elsewhere, though Alex's insistence on making droll comments about the world around him nearly pushed me to exit the game several times over. It wasn't until I finally exited Alex's house later on and ventured further into the game world that I truly marveled at what lay before me. I knew it would be the killer aesthetic -- not the burgeoning narrative surrounding the so-called "Death Cab" or the offbeat protagonists -- that would take me in the end. The lush greenery of the forest I ended up in while chasing a wayward cat with a Salvador Dalí mustache blew me away. The faux-spritery of not-quite 3D and not completely anti-aliased character models struck me as charming and nostalgic, but the empty streets and uninspired layout of Alex's home didn't do much to convince me of Y2K's potential beauty. Neither did the amateurish anime-styled portraits of each speaking character, who seemed like they belonged in a Ren'py visual novel rather than an ambitious role-playing game with a unique art style. It looks as though this may have changed in newer builds of the game, but I've not yet gotten my hands on one.  Once I got into the overworld proper, however, I drank in the sights. I ran through a golden field during sundown to chase after the cat who got away from me. I made mental comparisons to games before Y2K who perfected this look (El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron and Killer7 came to mind) and I began to enjoy myself a whole lot more when faced with whimsical locations on the map that still gave the impression I was alone in the world, but in a beautiful, far-off place. This feeling, of course, persisted when I made my way outside the limits of Alex's sleepy hometown and into some decidedly otherworldly places simply by following a silly little cat a la Toru Okada in Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I won't spoil things here for those interested, but there's a weird world of surrealism waiting to open up to you in Y2K after the normality seems to wear off, and I know I want to see more.  A turn-based battle system steeped in combos and rhythmic button press blocks was a delightful surprise as well, calling forth visions of the better of the Japanese RPG pool. That's not a huge surprise as the team at Ackk Studios have stated time and time again that one of their goals with Y2K is to take from the best aspects of classic JRPG battle mechanics and leave the rest behind.  Predictably, Alex is an audiophile and throws LPs at enemies. Attacking and defending was a little more tiresome than your usual “press X to dodge” systems and takes some getting used to, but it was satisfying and suitably jarring when I took damage. There were hints that a deeper, more fulfilling system was at work, and one I’m interested to investigate further.  Now, as I write this I think back on the strange experience that was Ackk Studios' ambitious title and hope for the best when it's finally released. I must have sat through its opening non-sequitur about twenty times before I got into the game proper: "The needle of the record player has dropped...the sound that the world will hear will change the very nature of reality." Blah blah blah needle, record, blah blah pseudophilosophical musical analogy, fade to black. It's exactly what I hoped there wouldn't be any of in a game that bills itself as a "postmodern RPG," and right there it was as soon as I got started. It bled through every single pore of the game, from Alex's character design to the insistence on including LPs as weapons and the phrase "sick beats."  And yet, I'm intrigued. In many ways it may feel derivative and frustratingly devoted to keeping up appearances as wacky for the sake of being wacky, but I think there's something special at work here too. Something genuine. I'm sure I'll find it lurking beneath the panda gimmickry and silliness, and for that reason I want to see more...even if it's just to find out if the rest of the game plays like a love letter to Haruki Murakami. I'm hoping that it will. 
Y2K preview photo
Breaking records with every battle, literally
Y2K began with protagonist Alex Eggleston returning to his his hometown from college. I watched him gaze out of bus windows until the scene shifted to him sharing a seat with a man in a panda costume. This was jarring enough to give Alex reason to look completely shaken and offended, and as the jaunty soundtrack suggested, should have felt super quirky and weird. It didn't.

PoPoLoCrois Farm Story photo
PoPoLoCrois Farm Story

Look at this bushel of happiness on the PoPoLoCrois Farm Story Japanese cover

Wouldja look at it?
Feb 24
// Brittany Vincent
Okay, I know no one cares that much about farm sims or things like that these days unless they're teeming with in-app purchases. Or PoPoLoCrois, for that matter. But for some reason, I really like both. I also really like the...
The Last Guardian photo
The Last Guardian

Sony appears to have 'abandoned' its trademark for The Last Guardian

Is this the last time we'll hear about this game?
Feb 16
// Brittany Vincent
Waiting to finally see more of Sony’s elusive The Last Guardian? You may be in for some disappointing news in the near future, as one eagle-eyed NeoGAF user discovered Sony has opted not to extend its trademark for...

Jacob 'Humble' Browe talks Minelands: Call of the Border

Feb 07 // Brittany Vincent
Minelands: Call of the Border, from Triple-A Developer Entertainment, is Browe's baby, the product that's single-handedly responsible for his rise to prominence. It's received dozens of perfect 10/10, 5/5, 3/3, 2/2, and 1/1 scores from outlets just like this one, and none of us have even gotten to play the game yet. It's a thrill ride to be sure, but the game isn't the only reason he's becoming a household name. After putting out a series of daily developer diaries, a photo documentary series with stills from each minute of his day (including videos from each of his Starbucks jaunts), Browe has gained a following with fans as well. His Twitter features up-to-the-minute news and opinions sponsored by now-defunct "energy" soda Vault, where he speaks only in lowercase, using bizarre syntax and phrases like "v cool" and "p sure." When it comes to the industry he grew up shunning to ensure he could still impress vapid women in high school, no detail can go overlooked. Browe was the picture of patience and humility during our chat in the Gaylord Hotel suite he so lavishly recommended that I reserve with my credit card. I had requested my own room, but he was gracious enough to suggest we share the executive suite because, as he put it, "There's way too much space in here for one lonely guy." He spent much of the interview posted up at the minibar alternating between downing shots like a fish desperately seeking the glistening life force of water and checking his iPhone 6 Plus, making moves on his fantasy football team roster. It's like I wasn't even there, which actually allowed me to capture an even more intimate portrait of one of gaming's rising stars. When he did talk though, I definitely felt a sort of camaraderie I hadn't felt in some time from other devs. Chatting in the dimly-lit suite's makeshift "living room" area felt a lot like, well, home. Over a steaming cup of hotel brand coffee, Browe opened up about Minelands: Call of the Border, and why he thinks it has struck a chord with reviewers, who were privy to fifty 30-second trailers over the course of a three-month period before release. "Obviously everyone's excited because my game is taking creative risks like no other company out there. Minelands is doing something completely and totally new," Browe gushed, with a twinkle in his eye that could have been all the booze he had taken in before and during our talk. "For the first time in history, players can use two weapons at once. So if you're trying to kill an enemy and make sure he's dead, you could use your shotgun and your AK at the same time to dual-wield. You can even reload independently. And you don't even have to hold two weapons at a time if you don't want to. It's not required at all. " Technically, Browe reminded me earlier on when we met, Minelands is a first-person shooter, but its host of envelope-pushing features ensure that it defies classification. For instance, you'll be able to save your progress anywhere in the game. Rather than waiting for checkpoints, you can go to the menu at any time -- whether on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or N-Gage -- and save. Female characters, I was told, would play a major role as well.  "Commander Hua Wei is a fellow operative from China, and as you play through the game as Captain Guardevoi she's by your side every step of the way. She'll give you waypoints from her command center, and appear before you as a hologram of sorts for in-game interactions. This is the first time there's ever been a female commander in a shooter, let alone one that gives you orders as you go along. Of course, there's still plenty of time for romance in the game. Hua Wei may be your colleague as you trek across the Minelands to defeat the nefarious Hangdog Mack at the Border, but there's no battlefield too big to let love in." Though he didn't share much else regarding the title that's launched him into the gaming celebrity stratosphere, Browe did invite me out for dinner next week, where he's ordered that I come dressed in heels and a revealing dress so that we can talk about his creative process. But what about how the players feel about the actual game? I'm dying to know myself. Minelands has been released to the public already, but technically won't be going on sale for another couple of days, and then only at retailers like GameStop and Bed Bath and Beyond. Some members of approved media outlets who've seen the multitude of trailers are keeping mum about the game thus far other than the quotes okayed for the promotional materials: "Fantastic!" proclaims a prominent games magazine. "Brilliantly!" exclaimed a digital publication. Browe had quotes on hand, but he wasn't so forthcoming about sharing them with me, keeping silent so as not to give anyone a taste of what's already being called Game of the Year material. I did see something along the lines of "Brilliantly terrible," but I'm almost certain the "terrible" was a typo and it was something like 'Brilliantly, terribly genius" from Video Diversion Educator Magazine. But they wouldn't get the last word on things. That pleasure belonged to Browe as he gave me his parting words to pass on.  "Please subscribe to my Patreon and support independent video game development. Buy me a vanilla bean frappuccino if you end up liking Minelands: Call of the Border. I also accept major credit cards. It's all for the fans, and I'm planning on making something even bigger soon involving player choice. Two words: Branching dialogue options." Browe had wiggled his eyebrows seductively toward me after divulging this information, and even as I pen this piece now I'm astounded. Truly, Jacob "Humble" Browe is a visionary.
Minelands photo
A rising star speaks
Jacob "Humble" Browe is a visionary. He's just shipped a multi-billion dollar game to hundreds of retailers across the United States and Canada, with additional release dates staggered across the world. After running a succ...

Slasher Vol. 1 photo
Slasher Vol. 1

Kane Hodder's on-screen killing spree continues in Slasher Vol. 1: Summer Camp

It ain't Pamela Voorhees this time around
Feb 06
// Brittany Vincent
If you know me, you know I love horror films. I also happen to be very much in love with everyone's favorite masked killer, Jason Voorhees. I even got a cute lil' bloody cleaver on my leg in preparation for what I wanted to b...
Nitroplus Blasters photo
Nitroplus Blasters

Nitroplus Blasters adds four new faces to its extensive roster

Saya x another video game = my OTP
Feb 02
// Brittany Vincent
Nitroplus Blasters: Heroines Infinite Duel has added some new faces to its roster, and they're pretty awesome. Saber of Fate/Zero and Ethica Kibanohara of Tokyo Necro have been announced as playable characters in the upc...

Saints Row IV: Re-Elected is a prettier mash-up of aliens and sex toys

Feb 02 // Brittany Vincent
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected (PlayStation 4 [tested], Xbox One)Developer: Volition/High Voltage SoftwarePublisher: Deep SilverRelease: January 20, 2014MRSP: $49.99 The "Re-Elected" edition comes packaged with the updated PS4 edition of Saints Row IV, all the previously-released DLC, the expansion Gat Out of Hell (which I enjoyed thoroughly), and the Enter the Dominatrix feature – one of the best reasons to check out this re-release, especially since it features a host of deleted scenes from what would originally become Saints Row IV. It's basically a faux documentary told in an engaging fashion, and one of the best aspects of the entire package – save for the actual game, of course. If you already played through the game, you won't find anything changed here. The boss of the Saints has somehow managed to strong arm their way into becoming the President of the United States. In a sense, you may as well be a superhero – perhaps that’s why you end up getting super powers later on in the game. The game is centered around making the player feel as awesome as humanly possible, which it does accomplish in several ways. Zinyak, the alien mastermind behind enslaving humanity and committing a hundred other heinous deeds, is a well-read megalomaniac who’s content to toy with the Saints leader in any way he can, including depositing him or her into a virtual Steelport that’s been conquered and is teeming with Zin soldiers. It's your job to take him down. [embed]287011:57124:0[/embed] You do just that while navigating a simulation of the Steelport you know and love from Saints Row: The Third, getting yourself into a bunch of situations such as the Saints boss being whisked away into a ’50s-styled sitcom world where “golly gee” is about as rude as one can get, the hilariously awful dubstep gun, and the text-based adventure game snippets found nestled within the game. The introduction of superpowers to the mix is what ends up making Saints Row IV what it is, however. It’s empowering to be able to leap up tall buildings, slam into enemies with a lethal ground pound, or sprint through Steelport faster than a speeding bullet. Ice, fire, and other elemental powers are instrumental in incapacitating Wardens, larger Zin soldiers that wreak havoc on you if you amass a full wanted rating, and jumping across the city can be pretty exciting. Unfortunately, super sprint renders vehicles virtually useless, so that's one less thing you've got to engage in, but the array of other powers makes up for it. The leader of the Saints is consistently witty and fun, whether you choose a male or female avatar, and one of the biggest attractions of the game. “Romance” options, some great retro gaming references, and an excellent soundtrack accompany your jaunts about town, and if you’ve ever wanted to smack someone in the head with a writhing tentacle sword, this is your chance, especially given the upscaled visuals, additional content, and the just-released Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell. There’s plenty to do in Saints Row IV: Re-Elected, whether you're coming in as a new player or are here strictly for the additional content. As an aside, I want to mention that I’m pleased with where Saints Row has taken me before, but I’m ready for a new frontier. A new city. A new crew to run with. I had my fun with Steelport and the Saints, but perhaps it’s time for a new story. We’ll always have long car rides, er, sprints through the city...and this is the definitive way to experience Saints Row IV.
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected photo
Good to go for a second term
Saints Row IV is absolutely crazy. It is, without a doubt, one of the most off-the-wall sandbox experiences you can have on a console or otherwise. It's an excellent cooperative adventure as well, and it delivers the franchis...

Poppin' with hunies: My virtual dates in HuniePop

Jan 27 // Brittany Vincent
Why is this important? I've been in a tumultuous relationship with this title ever since I was passed a link to its Kickstarter page via IM from a good friend of mine. It seemed much more like a parody of dating sims rather than one to actually be consumed and enjoyed. We laughed about its unfortunate character designs (Kyanna has one arm tucked beneath her breasts permanently like some sort of disfigurement), dialogue, and the creator as well, because it all seemed like a legitimate joke. And yet, given my interest in visual novels, eroge, and adult games, I still wanted to see what it was all about. The many times I ventured to the game's Kickstarter (where it earned over $53,000 in funding) only served to effectively flatline my interest, however. I watched the bizarre exploits of developer Ryan Koons, whose HuniePop "Field Research" video called forth visions of a person I could only see as a character: King Douche of Fedoraville, someone who walked up to strangers and asked for hugs, kisses, dates, numbers, and what-have-you in the name of "research" for his game.  While the strategy worked for him much of the time in the video, and some of the women involved definitely had a good time with it, I'm sure I would have decked him had he come up to me asking for a hug or a kiss, never politely acquiescing for physical affection I don't owe anyone. But I don't speak for every woman, and it could be super cool to do those things in the dating world right now. It's just not something I ended up finding entertaining. And given the fact that you never know what kind of randoms you're dealing with on the street these days, it's probably not the safest way to chat up women.  That, and with every new trailer HuniePop seemed a lot less interested in being a light, fun adult game and more of a shocker for the sake of getting attention, i.e. the prickly character Audrey calling another girl a "whore ass bitch" (written by Koons himself.) It was like Baby's First Swearing Contest, and went against HuniePop's supposedly more "realistic" dialogue.  But the more I thought about it, the more I had to see the game for myself. With a background in explicit hentai games and a penchant for dirty storytelling, I figured I'd find something to like. So I took the plunge.  I chose to play as a woman, though you can play as male or female characters. Unfortunately, no matter which you choose, the default personality trope for your character is a hapless, dateless loser who comes off as an overeager and socially awkward idiot. I was surprised to see that the second set of dialogue options after a few introductory exclamations were so terribly, stereotypical "I don't know how to talk to women" quips. Even though my character was, presumably, a lesbian (I don't know how she identifies), it's a little bizarre to think that she wouldn't know how to talk to another human being who's only said hello.  As a side note, the order of the day was to just go with it, though, because HuniePop appeared to be self-aware to the point where it relied on memes, snarky statements, and overtly awful dialogue choices to get its message across. It did this (I hoped, anyway) so that the women I was courting could respond to my advances in a realistic manner, which they did several times over, but not as often as I would have hoped.  I noted the sentiment in HuniePop developer blogs and statements that these snippets of dialogue were never meant to tell a story but to add "fun" segments to the game and signify its very stark difference in tone from other, similar titles, and also to distance it from the visual novel genre, which Koons has been very adamant about ensuring people get right. It's not a visual novel. Back to the game, though. It turned out the very first woman I saw was actually Kyu, a fairy who came to my bedroom in the middle of the night because my character was garbage at finding a girlfriend. Kyu insisted that I go on a date right that minute, so we ended up at the mall at night. It was then I met up with Audrey, the same girl from the infamous HuniePop trailer I had seen so many times over, where Kyanna cuts her "nasty ass hair" the same way she always does and Audrey inexplicably hates it. Audrey was just as frustrating in-game as I thought she'd be, and after the exchange with Kyanna I was expected to want to flirt with her. I had to, with Kyu's prodding, though I really wanted to go talk to Kyanna instead.  Even in the most benign dating sims you don't act like an idiot who's not even interested in making small introductory talk, but HuniePop only gave me three dialogue choices, each more awful than the next. I decided on full-throttle flirt, which meant I told her I wasn't done checking her out yet, and she called me lame. I said I needed to pick out some lube for our date tonight and she called me cute and asked if I wanted to get high. That's Audrey in a nutshell.  After this bizarre exchange, I went to talk to Kyanna, because Audrey was the worst kind of tsundere. Luckily I had a way to follow the women I met with -- the HunieBee device tracked girls like a Scouter for Dragon Balls -- but when I left Audrey seemed pretty miffed that I just dipped on her. That's how I knew she'd end up being someone I'd pursue anyway just because I could tell she was channeling Asuka Langley Sohryu something fierce.  I talked to Kyanna and basically told her I didn't need to get on an exercise machine because she looked like she needed it more than me, which she responded to positively. That surprised me because it sounded like a dig at her, like I was calling her fat or out of shape or something. I don't think if I were actively trying to date any of these women that I'd use any of these options, especially if I wanted to maintain a conversation that wouldn't get me a ton of weird stares. I liked Kyanna though, and I told her that I'd "never lifted a weight in my fat life." She seemed pretty creeped out by that. By then she was getting hungry, so I bought her some tomatoes and handed them to her. She hungrily devoured them. I should probably explain that food items add stamina to the girls, so you can keep talking to them. The more you talk to and learn about them, the more points you receive to spend on upgrading your traits. It quickly becomes a cycle that you want to effectively and methodically implement by ensuring you purchase the right food for each girl. If you do it right, you can maximize "Hunie" production to get the most out of every conversation. It was one aspect of the game I found exceedingly entertaining. It was the first thing I really vibed with in the game. So I followed the tomatoes up with cabbage and sought out the other girl at the university. Kyanna wasn't right for me because I don't really dig the athletic type, so I left to seek out the girl she had been speaking to previously.  Tiffany was chatting with her professor Ms. Yumi, an extremely unprofessional teacher who blew off everything Tiffany was saying. Tiffany herself seemed boring, and when I was given the dialogue options I was surprised that one of them was a straight "ask on a date" question. I chose the "student union" option because it made me seem like less of a weirdo, having followed her all the way to her school just to ask her out. Our conversation went alright, but when she asked me if I was new at the school, I could have told her I work there and went under the name "Professor Sexy." Instead I played it straight because I felt as though I was basically assaulting her privacy otherwise. The conversation was kept casual, and I was surprised to see low-key options permeated the menu when I went that route instead of being forced to act like a total girl-crazy beast. I decided to find Ms. Yumi instead, because she was way too scatterbrained and totally not into grading her students' assignments for me to not see what her deal was. It turns out Aiko Yumi, aside from being voiced by a woman who sounds as though it's a chore to speak deeply enough for the character, liked to wear crop tops and nearly-transparent Daisy Dukes to work. She really rocked 'em, but I wasn't sure it was exactly professional attire. I also found out that the fairy Kyu had "a case of yellow fever." Kyu also told me to say basically the dumbest thing I possibly could to her to start off with, and the dialogue options didn't disappoint. I really wish there had been an option to continually play things straight rather than being given a racist choice, the "edgy" option, or something completely off the wall. I went with the "Fuck these birds, am I right?" option because it wasn't totally offensive and just odd enough to garner a humorous response. After seeing Aiko blow off her job duties, I wasn't particularly interested in her, so I decided to see what her friend Beli was up to. I realized it immediately, but just in case you haven't, every single time you go off using the HunieBee tool to "track" a girl, the one you're chasing after is always talking to someone else, at least in the beginning. Not that the rest of the game is realistic in any way, but it's like a neverending chain of new women to choose from, like a smorgasbord of ladies parading around to show off your options. I wasn't impressed with anyone so far, so it was off to speak to someone new nearly every time. Beli was hanging out with a blonde who was trying to make her wear a bikini. It had some sort of hideous pot leaf on it, which I guess gave it some #edgedgeneddy, but it really got me wondering who was in charge of the costume design here; there were some real stinkers thus far. Beli was nice and inoffensive enough, but I wanted to see what was going on with Blondie, so I left to go track her down.  When I arrived at the next location, Blondie was already flirting with Lola, so I actually felt a little like I was imposing. Turns out Blondie (Jessie, I learned) was a bit of a "cougar," according to Kyu. She was a little on the extroverted side, which made sense according to her character profile, which listed that she's an adult film star and the mother of none other than Tiffany. And yet the dialogue options were all presumptuous, horrific openers that I'd never think to say to anyone, male or female: "How much?" "Ten outta ten" for her "supremely nice tits?" I couldn't avoid sounding like an asshole. Each follow-up dialogue option beyond the openers was poised to get me in bed with Jessie, which felt bizarre given the pace with the other girls. I assume the context stemmed from her being a sex worker who's always ready to go, and even if that's the case, I wanted to actually chat with Jessie before getting into all that. In the end, she still wasn't my type either, so I went ahead and moved on to Lola, the flight attendant. I got to the Nutmeg Cafe, and after a brief exchange with a rude barista who was leaving, refusing to make Lola a cappuccino, Kyu gave me some solid advice, in that she "loves her some chocolate." I figured Lola needed some time to think about the horrible display of customer service (and I was pretty embarrassed by Kyu's statement) so before we continued talking about how gorgeous Lola was, I took my Telling Women They're Beautiful and I Want to Bang Them parade on to Lusties Nightclub, where that girl with the glasses who didn't want to do her job had gone to. It turned out that this was Nikki, the blue-haired shut-in who never leaves her room and probably asks people if the coast is clear while living with someone else and not paying least, that's the vibe I got from her when she was telling Lola to go on somewhere. She was arguing with Audrey about how boring it is at the nightclub (because presumably she dislikes people), but what was interesting about this scene was the fact that Audrey had friends. I recalled Nikki as the same character I read from promotional materials who was into games, so I decided to pursue her, despite not really enjoying her personality very much. I was treated to a really intelligent dialogue option, given her blue hair: "Is that your natural color?" Only someone with half a functioning brain would actually ask that. I was happy to see when I chose that option, Nikki spoke to me like I was a complete and utter idiot, because I had just asked a totally asinine question about "natural" blue hair. We continued to chat and it looked like Nikki was starting to open up to me. I guessed how tall she was correctly and I even answered the several questions she had for me in a manner that she found acceptable. Everything seemed to be going great...until she started complaining about how hungry she was. I bought her some cake, which she chowed down on, but she was soon starving again. All I could afford was some soda, which she refused. Disheartened, I headed off to chat up some other girls to make some cash. Disingenuous of me? Maybe. But I needed to get enough money to pay for my darling Nikki. I decided to say hi to Tiffany and see what she was up to over at Nutmeg Cafe. Thankfully, I already had the soda to give her. She declined as well. I tried to chat her up, but in the end she just ended up getting hungry as well. I wasn't aware I had entered into a "buy women food simulator," but there I was. I headed out to talk to Audrey at the mall. We chatted about her occupation (student, of course) and what my biggest turnoffs are. I wanted to tell her how much I dislike smoking, but I had a chuckle at the option that called women "broads" and the typo within that proclaimed I dislike women who don't know how to have fun. But I still wasn't making any money, so I decided to ask Audrey on a date against my better judgment. We went to an ice rink, and I hated every single second of it, but it was all for Nikki. The gem-matching elements are simple enough, yet frustrating when you realize that sometimes all you've got to work with are negative modifiers. For example, I painted myself into a corner so that I was left only with broken hearts to match with, which rob you of any affection points you've earned in the date thus far. Luckily, power-ups and items you can earn along the way remove these problems, as do strategic move planning and leveling up your traits. It's a very deep sort of puzzler that would have done exponentially well as a mobile title, and one that I didn't mind spending hours on. But I wasn't so great at it to start off. I eventually failed to earn enough points to pass my first date since you've only got a limited number of moves a la games like Candy Crush Saga, though I did come away with more "munie" to spend on the other girls. I ended up buying Nikki a bagel, which was all I could afford then. She hated it. Still, I was able to ask her out on a date. Time to not completely blow it. Our date at the casino ended with me having exhausted all of the available moves with only 10 points left to completely woo Nikki over. We retreated to the cafe, where I was able to speak with her with a fresh amount of munie in hand. I was smart enough this time to check out Nikki's profile, which I should have been smart enough to look at before. She liked desserts and candy, so I showered her in cupcakes and ice cream. I needed more munie to woo her though, so I decided to go on a few more dates. Next up was Kyanna. I failed this date as well, but that was all my fault for not looking into how to play the game more efficiently. I spent some time cycling through the girls and going on dates to earn money to buy gifts and other items to make each match easier, which took quite a bit of time. It was then I realized that, while it doesn't look or feel like it at first, there's a lot going on here strategy-wise that ends up making the game a time sink if you're not careful. I ended up winning my first date, with Lola no less, but only after upgrading some of my traits. They're absolutely imperative for progression, but not in a way that's obnoxious or frustrating. With that in mind, the game became a lot simpler to play, though never so easy that I felt insulted. Feeling insulted did happen though, several times, especially when the girls clearly choreographed their likes and dislikes according to their backgrounds or personalities. For example, Beli was religious and spiritual, and Tiffany is a teacher's pet. Of course, Jessie was overtly sexual and Nikki loved the paranormal. I could see those things coming a mile away, and while I applaud the attempt at making these women more than two-dimensional cardboard cutouts, they're still extremely predictable and samey. A particular pet peeve of mine after spending an extended amount of time with each girl was the lack of variety between questions when you're getting to know them. Asking favorite colors, seasons, hobbies, height, cup size, weight, and other extraneous and non-important information is boring. And the girls get mad if you ask the same questions again and again, so the lack of ability to change them up is frustrating. After a lot of messing about with other girls, it was finally time to go out on another date with Nikki. This time we headed out to the carnival to "go win some stupid shit." A girl after my own heart. After going on several dates with Nikki and further refining my puzzle technique, I was finally able to reach a level where I had gone out on additional dates with each girl, particularly Audrey and Nikki. Audrey continued to pop off with crass one-liners and Nikki grew on me with her love of retro gaming accessories. In the end, however, I was ready to go the mile with only one girl, and that was Nikki. I prepared myself, played my cards right, and took her on a date at "night" by the game's time. When she finally invited me back to her room, I played a quick puzzle minigame that was essentially to seduce her as she stood in my bedroom in her underwear. The move limit was removed and I simply had to make puzzle matches to fill a gauge at the bottom of the screen that continually emptied if I wasn't fast enough, all the while Nikki moaned as Affection points from my matches hit her body. I was rewarded with an image of Nikki in a sexually suggestive pose (though still clothed, as I didn't have the patch to unlock adult content). Her breasts and nipples were visible, but nothing else. With that, the screen faded to black. And just like that, she was back to being hungry. With that, I concluded a six-hour HuniePop extravaganza, though I'll be going back to finish up all of the girls' paths and unlock the additional characters. In the end, I realize this is a game that, while riddled with issues, I liked a lot. A whole lot. In fact, with better writing and some more care given to the characters to flesh them out, it could be so much more. As is, it's a completely serviceable and silly puzzler that peppers in content you might find objectionable, but a sequel that takes some of these things to heart could blend the best of the adult world and games, and that's no easy task. I look forward to poppin' with more hunies, but I'm going to need them to grow up a little in the meantime.
HuniePop photo
In which I cease judging a game by its hunies
I've been following HuniePop for a very long time. HuniePop is a dating sim/puzzle game created by HuniePot, an independent studio. It's available now for purchase via Steam and other distributors in both censored and uncenso...

Senran Kagura photo
Senran Kagura

Senran Kagura: Estival Versus gets a whole new batch of voyeuristic screenshots

I wasn't kidding, was I?
Jan 26
// Brittany Vincent
There's been a serious lack of Senran Kagura on Destructoid over the last few months, and I'm here to resolve that problem with a batch of screenshots from Senran Kagura: Estival Versus. The latest images include Asuka, Ikaru...
Criminal Girls photo
Criminal Girls

You have the right to remain sexy with Criminal Girls: Invite Only's latest screens

Or don't, that's your opinion or whatever
Jan 23
// Brittany Vincent
Criminal Girls: Invite Only is a game I've been following for some time now, and right now I'm in the middle of reviewing it for Destructoid. Since there's still a bit of time left before it actually comes out, however, I've ...

Review: Citizens of Earth

Jan 20 // Brittany Vincent
Citizens of Earth (PC [Reviewed], PS4, PS Vita, 3DS, Wii U) Developer: Eden Industries Publisher: Atlus Released: January 20, 2015 MSRP: $14.99 The game puts you in the shoes of the newly elected Vice-President of Earth, on vacation after his arduous first day in office. Your dear mother wakes you up and after grabbing your brother, you're on your way. There are protesters, rival politicians, sentient coffee beans, and loads of opposition out there and it’s up to you to… do something. There’s a story in there somewhere, but it kind of gets lost in the many, many, sidequests in the game. There are tons of characters to add to your entourage, and each of them typically requires a short-to-medium length quest to convince them to join your party. Each recruit has a specialty: your brother as a delivery man allows you to order items from anywhere, the homeless man can dig in places that would disgust others, and the mascot can change the difficulty level on the fly, and so on. This game is busy. Usually I’m thrilled to death by the aspect of tons of content and new characters to recruit, but Citizens of Earth throws out busy work as if more content means good content. Quests are tracked by a very vague “Agenda” on your tablet/menu, which isn’t very helpful at all. In some cases, I’ve quit playing for the day and came back and had no memory of what I needed to do to complete some things. An early quest has you “collecting evidence” to help get a potential party member out of jail. That’s all the quest log says: “collect the evidence.” What no one tells you in the game (or at least no one I talked to) is that to “collect evidence” you have to seek out and fight three crazed Java Beans which drop the “evidence” once they’re defeated. These obscure requirements plague the game, and almost every recruit and story mission has these same objectives you have to complete to progress. After a while I felt like I wasn’t really headed anywhere at all, and just moving for the sake of moving. [embed]285619:56954:0[/embed] That brings me to the biggest problem I had with Citizens. I didn’t care about any of the characters. I don’t mean I hated them, I mean I had no feelings whatsoever about them. They’re vapid and offer nothing more than superficial representation of their various occupations. The world itself is the same way. Lame puns abound, and after the first few chuckles it starts to wear. In just the first chapter of the game, I’d heard enough about “Moonbucks” and “Java Junkies” to never want to drink coffee again. It tries too hard to capture the modern setting and hip weirdness of EarthBound without ever trying to develop its own strong identity. The battle system is one of the worst I’ve seen in an RPG, despite having played numerous titles with similar mechanics. It’s based around “energy.” Every action except for running from battle or item usage requires you to pay close attention to the amount of energy you have. Some attacks have characters gaining energy, and some require energy to utilize. This makes battles incredibly slow as you’re forced into a constant cycle of using your weak attacks to build energy so that you can use the more powerful attacks that cost energy. In practice it can be like auto-battle, and although there are items and equipment that help with energy restoration or reduce its cost, it’s a tedious process and I really disliked it. Perhaps these long, drawn-out battles could be forgivable, but there are always swarms of enemies in each dungeon-type map, and there’s a very small invincibility window, so if you’ve just defeated an enemy and one is right near you, guess what? You’re forced into battle. Again. There’s nothing you can do to stop it, and this becomes endlessly frustrating after a while. The leveling system is also unbalanced and I found that enemies that I was getting destroyed by were chump change after only gaining one or two levels. Then, upon entering a new area I was nothing but a weakling all over again. The difficulty can be raised and lowered at will through a party member you can recruit near the start of the game, but I feel like I should be able to play the game on one difficulty the whole way through and not have to worry about changing it due to the lack of developer efforts to balance it. It’s important to note that if you’re at a high enough level, you can send your team to “charge” at an enemy and defeat it automatically, but if you’re in a new area, that option is rarely available. It’s unfortunate that Citizens of Earth fails so badly in the character and story department, because superficially I love it. The art style is wonderful and there’s so much potential. It’s here that the developers really lived up to the EarthBound name. The character design is excellent, comprised of beautiful sprites, and one of the things that kept me playing was wanting to see new NPCs and enemies and what they’d look like. The world itself has a lot of style as well, and its design meshes with the characters quite well. It would have been great to have played a game with a script of similar quality to match this bright, fun setting. Other small bugs and inconsistencies abound. The default keyboard controls are unintuitive, and the triggers between maps can be a bit too large. This usually results in accidentally leaving buildings because you get too close to the door, while other doors require you to use the interaction key to activate them. Citizens of Earth is a mess, and the quality of its various components vary widely. However, there’s still a somewhat decent game beneath the frustrating amalgam of boring, grinding gameplay and bizarre design decisions. There's a lot of potential behind the scenes that could be reworked into a much more satisfying experience. As-is, Citizens of Earth is at best a semi-mediocre journey with lots of quests to complete. Alas, it seems that while it tried its best to do so, it just couldn't quite grasp EarthBound's true form.  [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Citizens of Earth review photo
Bound to earth
The Fifth Element came on TV the other day, and it really got me thinking about mise-en-scène versus characterization. It’s one of my absolute favorite movies, and is an exemplar of sci-fi in cinema without being...

Review: Saints Row IV: Gat out of Hell

Jan 19 // Brittany Vincent
Saints Row: Gat out of Hell (PC, PS4 [Reviewed], Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360) Developer: Volition/High Voltage Software Publisher: Deep Silver Released: January 20, 2015 MSRP: $19.99 The game opens on the gang aboard the Zin Ship during a celebration of Kinzie Kensington’s birthday. During the festivities, Matt Miller produces a possessed Ouija board that was previously owned by Aleister Crowley, and it opens a portal to Hell. The Boss (your player character in the previous Saints Row games) is sucked through the portal and kidnapped by Satan. Johnny Gat and Kinzie follow through the portal to save their friend, and upon arriving in Hell go to the biggest building in sight. Ultor HQ. Dane Vogel, head of Ultor Corporation and previous adversary of the Saints, has started his business anew in Hell and lets the duo know that Satan has arranged a marriage between The Boss and his daughter. Vogel has big plans to corner the real estate market in Hell, and he needs Satan out of the way to do it. He presents Johnny Gat with Lucifer’s Broken Halo, a powerful artifact that imbues the user with fiery wings and arcane power, to assist in the assassination of the Dark Lord. All of the previous statements contained a lot of names that you may or may not remember depending on which games, if any, you’ve played of the series. This is one of the biggest things that marks this as a standalone expansion. This game is very self-referential, and unlike the main entries in the series doesn’t ease players into the world of Saints Row. It makes the assumption that you’ve at least played Saints Row IV, and spends little time on exposition or background other than some short illustrations and voiceover. [embed]285618:56942:0[/embed] This was a bit frustrating, because even though I’ve played through all the Saints Row titles, it’s been a while. It would have made the game more inviting to have at least a short flashback when meeting a character from a previous title, and unfortunately many players might miss out on some of the enjoyment and nostalgia from not having just a bit more context. However, there are a few new characters, and they are a blast. Shakespeare, Vlad the Impaler, and Blackbeard all join the cast, and although this entry is a bit short, I hope that future iterations will introduce as interesting of a cast as this one did. The setting is where this game really shines though. Hell looks, well, hellish. Instead of another romp through Steelport, we spend our time in New Hades, which is dominated by the Ultor Tower. It’s sometimes hard to notice flying and sprinting at high speeds, but different sections of Hell have different aesthetics, and the whole map, although smaller than Steelport, feels more alive and organic from all the unique buildings. Gone also are the nameless civilian fodder, replaced by “Husks,” which are the souls of the damned who are made to feel pain for all eternity. The police are instead demons who drive monster trucks, and there are a host of flying, shielded, and gigantic enemies, all with their own styles and methods of attack. All in all they made a much more entertaining and interesting adversary than the Zin, and the whole world feels much more polished and finished than Saints Row IV’s Steelport simulation. Much like the last game, you have access to a host of superhuman powers. With Lucifer’s Broken Halo you can sprout wings to glide, sprint at high speed, stomp the ground with various elemental powers, call upon demons to fight for you, and turn enemies to stone with power blasts. Whether in a simulation or powered by a demonic artifact, the result is much the same: you’re pretty much the most powerful being in Hell. I think powers are much more interesting in Gat out of Hell. Something about the last game’s powers being due to computer hacking and being trapped in a simulation was insanely boring. These games are a zany good time, but when I play something like this I like to feel as though I’m actually affecting the world I’m playing in, and getting powers from the broken crown of the Morning Star himself is way cooler. I do have a bit of a qualm with the missing character customization element, though. I understand that the game centers around having to play as Kinzie or Johnny Gat; but it would have been nice to at least change their outfits or accessories. So everything seems pretty positive about this game, right? It’s a high quality production, and totally awesome, so what could go wrong? Well, that cool setting, low price point, and interesting gameplay came at a cost, namely in the form of content. Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell is short. Really short. The first time I saved my game I had been playing for about an hour, and I was shocked when the screen said that the game was already 14% complete. I figured it was like Saints Row IV where that number didn’t really mean a lot or indicate how much content was left other than at a superficial level. Well, I was wrong. Gat takes about 6-7 hours to complete the main plot, and it could probably be easily taken to 100% within 12-13 hours. Honestly, I’ve paid $20 for a lot less fun, and although the game is short, what is there is solid gold. Plus, if you’ve never played Saints Row IV, or just want it and all its DLC on latest gen consoles, you can get Saints Row IV: Re-Elected, which includes this expansion for about $50. Gat out of Hell was a great swan song for Saints Row IV, and it is now one of my favorite entries in the series. There are plenty of games out there about depression, sexuality, violence, politics, and so on, and sometimes it makes me tired. I love Saints Row because I never have to deal with any issues within. There’s no agenda and no life lessons to learn. There’s only pure escapism. which is what games are meant for in my view. If I wanted to worry about all that, I’d just go to a college campus and listen to people complain for a few hours. As it is though, I hope that more developers take a cue from Saints Row and realize that it’s still okay to tell jokes and implement cartoony violence that’s still ridiculous and fun. I know gaming as an industry is maturing and people want to present new ideas and make statements using the media, but luckily, whenever I feel like I need a break, I will have Saints Row proudly on my shelf. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
SRIV: Gat out of Hell photo
Like a sinner before the gates of Heaven
There’s something about a series that doesn’t feel the need to make a ton of social commentary, or really feel grounded in reality. The Saints Row series is like if the worlds of The Naked Gun and Grand Theft Auto...

Mean Girls: The Game photo
Mean Girls: The Game

I feel personally victimized by the fact that there is a Mean Girls mobile game

So Much Drama™
Jan 14
// Brittany Vincent
I took a look at the official Princess Bride mobile game the other day and it was garbage. Granted, I don't like that movie, but I know plenty of people who do. It was a terrible, uninspired amalgam of boring minigames that h...

My name is Brittany and I'm a gaming sadist

Jan 06 // Brittany Vincent
Any human empathy I have for my fellow man drains upon the information that one has knowingly and intentionally harmed an animal. I can cope with violence, but once it falls upon the head of a living creature who arguably has little by way of protecting itself, I crumble. I become the staunch animal rights activist who would jump in front of a car before harming the trembling little Lab pup I caught a glimpse of in the veterinarian's office. Yet, I have my own history of violence against other living beings in the virtual space. That's right. I've abused humanoid beings and other creatures in videogames. And, for some reason, I don't feel even the least bit concerned about doing so. I can't stand it when my Sims live fulfilling lives. I like to drown patrons of my parks in Roller Coaster Tycoon. As I've grown up, I've murdered hundreds of digital citizens for a few quick chuckles. But, when I was a little girl, I loved to mistreat Norns, the stars of 1997's Creatures, the most. Call me sadistic, but there's something inside me that drives me to bend the rules of every simulation title so that the objective becomes treating the game's inhabitants the worst I possibly can. It's invigorating. Feels good to rebel. The game wants me to create and nurture, but I want to wreak havoc and destroy everything. It's fulfilling to me. So, while my heart bleeds for the helpless animals I see lying in filth, malnourished, and otherwise neglected on the ASPCA commercials on television, I just can't bring myself to care about the strange Norns or their way of life. In fact, I wanted to ruin their lives so much that later on in my days of PC gaming, I began to willfully terrorize the innocent little beings. Though I would purposefully withhold food from my Babyz and unleash daily apocalypses on the unsuspecting citizens of Sim City, I never thought much of it. I really had it out for these furry little Norns though, and I was perfectly okay with driving them to an early grave. I have no idea why these helpless, innocent little buggers drove me to hurt them so. Maybe I was irritated because of their helplessness. Perhaps it was their grating voices, a cross between baby talk and Furbish. Or maybe it was the "deer in the headlights" look their freakishly large eyes had, staring deep into my soul with mind-numbingly bright smiles and ridiculous hairstyles -- particularly the blonde female Norns. I'll never know for sure what sparked this madness in me, as I wouldn't think of doing such a thing with a living animal or fellow man. I believe to this day, as someone who seeks out new experiences and other points of view to both observe and learn, I never felt the familiar pangs of guilt one would imagine because of my ability to clearly separate video game from reality -- something most of the world believes youths do not possess. But I know I do, and I know it's as easy as disconnecting from the real world, suspending belief for a few precious moments, and trying things you ordinarily would not. It requires a bit of familiarity with Creatures' creatures to understand my tendencies. Released in 1997 from Mindscape, Creatures took place on the fictional world of Albia, a disc-shaped world previously inhabited by a race of beings known as the Shee. After the Shee left for greener pastures, new inhabitants (presumably the player) traveled to the planet to introduce brown, furry deer-like Norns into the environment. Players were tasked with hatching the Norns from large multicolored eggs with an intubator, teaching them to speak, feed themselves, interact with other Norns, and defend themselves from slimy, green, lizard-like creatures known as Grendels. Creatures was remarkable in that, by breeding these interesting little beings, traits could be passed on from parent to offspring in ways that even the creators of the game could not exactly foresee. Small retained traits such as hair style, hair color, mannerisms, and different mutations in colors were seen, and for an earlier PC-life simulation title, it's fascinating what all could be done. That is, if you actually played the game the way it was meant to be played, which I did not. The game graciously offered up ways to help ingrain your Norns with activities of daily living, such as using a machine conveniently placed in the game's first open area to teach them basic words, items, and concepts. This was accomplished via flashing an action or an item on-screen and letting the Norn repeat it, much like with human children. Words were expressed aurally with a strange combination of higher-pitched nonsense syllables and actual word visuals inside balloons. To teach Norns different words to add to their vocabularies, you needed to type in your desired actions, names, or item descriptions. As I found the Norns wandering away to be left to their own devices while I was holding useful lessons, this began to wear on my nerves. I didn't understand why those "stupid things" (as I complained to my father) wouldn't sit still and learn how to say hello and goodbye. I soon learned that I could "slap" the Norns (and also show physical affection to reinforce positive learning) if they misbehaved. To keep them in place while I attempted to teach them what a carrot was and that they should eat it, I was slapping every second as soon as it looked like they'd stray. They'd fall on their bushy little tails and I'd guffaw. I would also purposely begin teaching them the wrong words by way of the learning computer in the main area of Albia just so I could slap them for getting the question wrong. And, I didn't care. I'd make sure the Norns, looking at my hand-shaped cursor, learned their "names." I'd type "Stupid" or an equally unimaginative word such as "Farthead" to get back at them for being so ignorant in their own way. It made me laugh until I thought I'd fall out of my computer chair, and I'd go back to continually smacking them until they repeated their names back to me, followed by a word like "honey" or "carrot." I'd take every bit of food in their reach and hide it near an underground cave, where they'd never be able to access it unless I chose to take them there. You can see that in the header image, actually, where I've hidden all the food, toys, and beverages the Norn could possibly get to if I looked away for a moment.  I hatched a few more Norns for variety. Eventually I had a few Brady Bunch characters, Sailor Senshi, and Fartheads wandering around Albia. And then they started breeding, which only sought to infuriate me. When I began finding eggs from my "partnered" Norns, characterized by kissing noises and a distinct popping sound, I was irate. How DARE they? I went ahead and hatched the eggs, but made sure that the children of my adolescent Norns were kept as far as possible from their parents. It only seemed right that I should punish them for daring to have a bit of fun in the world I carefully orchestrated to perpetuate their misfortune. One day, startled, I realized I had felt the tiniest bit of remorse. It almost frightened me, washing over me in such a way that I couldn't understand how I could have ever been such a vile mistress to these helpless creatures. I began attempting to play the game "correctly." I had perused many a online forum full of tips and tricks on how to make my version of Albia thrive, and I wanted to be successful. For a while, I worked hard at getting them to listen, attempted to teach them how to defend themselves against the Grendels, and even made use of some of the tools in-game to aid the Norns, such as herbs to cure illnesses and general malaise. Well, that is until I discovered the poisonous herbs. That's where the destructive cycle began anew. So, my continual torture of the Norns marched on for months on end. I thought nothing of the brief feelings of shame that had surfaced upon my sudden realization. I had found a new method of torture, and it continued to entertain me. My Norns would suffer, and I would laugh. After some housecleaning, a move, and the start of a particularly stressful school year, I lost track of where I kept Creatures and its expansion pack, Life Kit #1. The years passed and the series saw subsequent sequels and even children's spin-offs. Every time I think of Beowulf I can't wipe the image of a disgusting green beast from my mind, terrorizing the Norns after I unleashed one in their vicinity. Whenever a conversation turns to sim games, I think back on my time with the original game in the series. And, as I write this, I think of the fun that could be had with the newer games and the different races and items that have been added since my time in Albia. But I still don't feel bad about it. Not one little bit.
Sadism in gaming photo
Absolute power corrupts absolutely
I ventured out to the vet's office a few weeks ago with a Miniature Pinscher in tow. Sam Fisher (the same of Third Echelon fame), my beloved pup, was to see the doctor for a regular checkup and heartworm test. While waiting i...

Gaming resolutions I'll strive to keep in 2015

Dec 31 // Brittany Vincent
I will stop trying to solo every single MMO I play.  What can I say? I'm a lone wolf. And yet, I enjoy playing MMOs, like World of Warcraft. But the catch is I would always rather play alone. It's not that I have anything against other players. I'm just a firm believer in the fact that you can only rely on yourself in certain situations, and when you're trying to level a character past its teens and others keep reaping the rewards of your hard work, playing a game very quickly turns into a slog rather than an enjoyable hobby. Still, it's the nature of the MMO to play with others. To get the most out of any of them you need to open up and let other people in. I'll give it the old college try (beyond friends and whatnot, anyway) and start putting myself out there. Probably. Maybe.  I will stop expecting the free-to-play model to improve. It's not going to. End of story. As long as people are paying to break blocks in Candy Crush Saga or whatever clone they're addicted to at the moment, this model will only expand and evolve. I will no longer look upon these titles with disdain or contempt and will simply understand that they're part of an ecosystem that's beyond me. But, just like I was quoted as saying back at PAX East 2010 as I was shoehorned into the "girls and gaming" panel (shocker, I'm a woman!) social gaming is real gaming, and people who enjoy these types of diversions are "real" gamers, for whatever that's worth. Far be it from me to keep them from what they enjoy. I will attempt streaming games again. Real talk, I think streaming personalities are some of the most abrasive out there in the world of gaming, especially so-called "pro gamers" who aren't any better than the five-year-old Tetris savant next door. I'm sure there are plenty of entertaining personalities out there, and there's no doubt money to be made from it. We're all trying to make that scrilla scratch, and I ain't even mad. But when all you have to offer are spoken memes or quips about how old school you are, you're not entertaining me. So I'll put my money where my mouth is and stream some gameplay this year at some point, and not League of Legends or whatever's hot for the cool e-Kids. I may not have a catchphrase or legions of fans, and I'm not fantastic at the games I'll choose to play. But I'll interact with people and make an honest attempt at being someone you'll want to catch on stream regularly. I just need to figure out when. I will channel my anger about various annoyances into getting better at the games I enjoy. It's easy to sit around being irritated at those AT&T commercials where that couple comes in with a baby looking for more data or minutes for their cell plan or whatever and the sales associate is impeccably dressed, attentive, and whispering to the whispering parents, which is in every single way a ridiculous and pandering commercial to extremes I cannot fathom. But it's harder to take that bottled-up rage and use it to focus on making myself better -- either in general or within the games I enjoy the most. Practice makes perfect, and I could research strategies to improve my StarCraft II matches or my Mario Kart 8 racing skills. I focus so much on completing the games in my never-ending back-avalanche that I don't concentrate as much on grinding my opponents into dust. I need to find a healthy outlet in which I can channel all of my disdain for people who use the word "preggers" and PR representatives who think we actually need trailers for trailers.  I will stop immediately deleting emails about Kickstarters for games that I'll never play. Well, this one is only partially true. I can only commit to giving them at least a quick glance before sending them to the circular file. I love and support the fact that nearly anyone can create a game these days and find the funding they deserve, but I deserve an inbox not cluttered with desperate pleas for my attention, games writer or not. I do browse Kickstarter for awesome projects, so when there's something that strikes my fancy I like to bring attention to it when I can. Oh, and that image is an old illustration of Mighty No. 9, one of the only two Kickstarters I've ever backed: that one and another one to be nice, but will probably never play again in my life. There are some genuinely interesting projects on there, but I'll find them or they'll find me. But still -- cursory glance over the email, then delete...only if you don't spam my personal email, my LinkedIn mail, Twitter DMs, and my Facebook. To those who do that, what is wrong with you? I'll stop pretending I have a Persona 4 waifu.  I just don't, okay? I don't like any of the Persona 4 characters all that much. Love the game. Don't get me wrong. I'm more of a Mitsuru girl, anyway.  I will keep an open mind.  This isn't so much a change as something I'm pledging for myself. I want to keep an open mind as to which games I cover, purchase, support, and follow. Maybe this is the year I'll get into a MOBA I previously hated. I might decide to delve deeper into the Dynasty Warriors series or dig through my massive backlog for a series I've not given a chance before, like Gabriel Knight. I might even look into one of the many 99-cent indie titles floating around the internet that looks terribly unappealing and discover a modest little secret I want to share with the entire industry. Whatever happens, I'm excited to be taking yet another ride in the Merry-Go-Video-Game-Industry, no matter how far removed of a cousin I may be. 
New year resolutions photo
Which one will stick?
No one ever keeps resolutions. I tell myself every January that I'm going to stop inspecting cheese for fingerprints before putting it on a sandwich or that I'll actually start wearing something other than sweatpants and a ho...

Brittany Vincent's random assortment of Game of the Year 2014 picks

Dec 29 // Brittany Vincent
Best Game For #1 Handsy Boys: Tomodachi Life I quit playing this life sim when I realized there was no real endgame despite how much I enjoyed its day-to-day moments and I'd never accomplish anything beyond creating a Josh Homme Mii or making a baby with my in-game and IRL boyfriend. It was a lot of fun while it lasted. I'm sure everyone is either really angry with each other now or rotting away in their diminutive apartments, having died of starvation because they can't fend for themselves, despite how close the store is to their dwelling place. Runner-Up: Trying to Figure Out Why Sailor Moon Crystal had Such Terrible Art I think I spent a few hours trying to decipher this game's objectives, but gave up shortly after. Best Racing Game That I Raced In: Mario Kart 8 I feel like if you don't get why Mario Kart 8 is a good game at this point, you probably never will. Would you look at that? Just look at it. I always use Rosalina, because I feel like her emo swoop, like Red Bull, gives me wings. Actually, I don't drink Red Bull. It's disgusting and gives me little or no caffeine buzz, possibly because I'm addicted to caffeine. I do quite enjoy using the Wii U's Game Pad for 15-minute gaming sessions, since that's about how long the battery lasts. Runner-Up: Deciding Against Preordering amiibo That Later Were Extremely Difficult to Procure I should have just gone ahead and preordered every single one of them. Instead, I spent long, sleepless nights trolling r/amiibo looking for a silver lining in the ominous cloud that is being a purveyor of useless Nintendo crap. I can't help it. They're cute. I won't even open them, because they're going to pay for my non-existent future childrens' college fund. Just kidding. They'll sit pretty on my shelf and I'll continue to hoard them. And I've got Shulk on lock. Don't even play. Best Baby Game: Disney Magical World There's no shame in running errands for Mickey and Minnie, especially when you get stickers and outfits for doing so. Donald Duck is a straight up gangsta in this game, too. He stands by that little fishing hole all day waiting for something to bite, but I know from experience that he's only ever going to encounter the same three or four fish over and over. I wish there would have been some way to integrate this game with Disney Infinity, but I know they're all completely different developers and whatnot. Between you and me, this was much more fun than Infinity ever seemed -- but maybe it's because I'm not a Marvel fan and all I ever wanted to do was get Elsa's figure. I also wanted Sulley from Monsters, Inc. but it's impossible to grab a solo version without buying the crystal version. And those are just lame, boring crystal reprints of figures that are already out. Runner-Up: Singing out of Tune to Every Song that Came on Spotify While Writing This Right now it's "Wrecking Ball." A few minutes ago it was "We Can't Stop." It relieves a lot of stress, especially when it's 1:11 AM. I recommend going through Britney's discography for this purpose, honestly. You already know all the words, and you don't have to throw in a "yeah" on the offbeat to try and turn every song you're ruining into a rap song.  Best JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Game: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA. (Check out my review here, you bunch of roundabouts. It wasn't perfect, but I had a lot of fun.) Best PlayStation Game I Previously Had to Jump Through Hoops to Play, so I Never Did Except for That One Time and a Few Others: Vib-Ribbon There are things that happen in life sometimes that you can't control, like wishing extremely hard that you could purchase something but just can't. Like, you've got money in hand and want so badly to purchase a good, but for whatever reason you just can't. It's like walking into an Apple Store and asking to buy an item and being put on a waiting list with a bunch of caterwauling miscreants who got there before you and being told "I'd love to help you out, but there are other people who have been here waiting about 20 minutes, so as soon as it's your turn I'll get you taken care of." With games that don't simply come out in your region (save from importing and going to a lot of trouble, which I had to end up doing most of the time) you can't tell the Apple employee that you already know what you want and have cash in-hand to buy in a manner that clearly communicates that you're not just some schmuck looking to peruse their parade of overpriced (yet deliciously luxurious) products and are a Real Man. You just have to hope the game gets imported so you don't have to mod your console or buy a brand new one. Or emulate it. Sony made Vib-Ribbon available for me this year, and now it's the classic that every blogger gets to pretend they'd heard about or cared about writing features for before when they only got interested because it was Buzzworthy™.  Runner-Up: Keeping my Opinions on Controversial Topics to Myself on Various Social Media Channels  I'm a nobody who writes about games. I don't need to share any of that. Getting involved is a wicked game to play. Best Reason to Put Family Guy on for Ambient Noise Because I'm too Scared to be in my Own Apartment in the Dark at Night After Playing: P.T. It may have been a demo, but it sure did trump nearly everything else I played this year. I think they're going to ruin it with some episodic nonsense or whatever, which is really just a bad idea. Let me tell you how much I retain of Telltale's games after I complete an episode when it's time to dive into the next one: Nothing at all. I just get irrationally angry when I have to wait for the next installment. Runner-Up: TWIN PEAKS IS COMING BACK OH MY GOD   Oh my god. Oh, oh my god. I'm so hot right now.  Best Reason to Forgo Sleep: Bayonetta 2 You may have heard that Bayonetta is an inspirational single mother or some other nonsense like that, and that is absolutely true. She's a hard-working mom who takes good care of Cereza despite the fact that Enzo doesn't pay child support. I think that's an admirable quality in a strong female character, too. Her son Loki (by Luca) may be a bit of a troublemaker, but she reveals a surprising amount of grace with every interaction where Loki is concerned. It's heartwarming, and an inspiration to me as a woman who enjoys video games. Runner-Up: Realizing None of the Above is True When You Actually Play the Game and I Made all of it up for Comic Effect Bayonetta 2 is perfection. Actually, take away the weird motion comic-styled cut scenes, and then it'd be perfection. You don’t control the lithe and lethal Umbra Witch so much as become her, chaining together a mixture of buttery-smooth combos and over-the-top moves that feel as natural as your very own movements. It’s a joy to watch the action unfold onscreen, and even more so to participate. From every Wicked Weave attack to the punishments that rain down upon the unsuspecting Angels, it’s clear that excellence oozes out of every single pore. Gorgeous level design, insane boss battles, and a wide array of costumes and unlockables combine to make Bayonetta 2 one of the greatest games of this console generation, and the best this year had to offer. You don't f*ck with a witch. That's 2014. I also enjoyed Pokémon: Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire as well as the Senran Kagura games. I played a lot of World of Warcraft this year too, or really, near the end of the year. So yeah.
Brittany's GOTY picks photo
I'm not entirely sure what year it is. Is it 2015? That's what I keep hearing around the internet. I'm pretty sure it's still 2014, at least for a few more days though. Who can be sure in tumultuous times like these? Anyway, ...

Review: Escape Dead Island

Dec 27 // Brittany Vincent
Escape Dead Island (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC [reviewed])Developer: FatsharkPublisher: Deep SilverReleased: November 18, 2014MSRP: $59.99 The game kicks off with a small prequel scene cataloging the events just prior to the beginning of the first game. Xian Mei of the original Dead Island plays Halo's Cortana to your generic Commando. After infiltrating a top secret lab (the only kind of labs video games know about) the two discover that YouTube commenters are right and a big corporation is in fact part of some Illuminati clone, yadda, yadda, yadda. Then a Tyrant or something kills you. The real treat comes when you meet Escape Dead Island's star: the rich kid with daddy issues that is equal parts Frank West, Jason Brody, and Colonel John Konrad. He decides the best way to get his father to love him is to go to Banoi with his two friends/employees and solve the mystery. However, this game lacks the creative writing of Scooby-Doo and the plot only serves to loosely tie the haphazard gameplay together. The only vaguely interesting part of the plot is related to the increasingly tenuous grasp on sanity the main character has, but we’ll get into that a bit later. [embed]284108:56737:0[/embed] Okay, so the plot is a bit generic and uninspired. Common complaints at this point, so what about the gameplay? Well, Escape Dead Island seems to have a hard time deciding exactly what it wants to be. Is it a stealthy survival horror title like Alien: Isolation? Is it an over-the-top zombie-killing free-for-all with photography elements like Dead Rising? Is it a combination of stealth and action like State of Decay? Is it a commentary on the fragility of the human psyche like Spec Ops: The Line? An exploratory action-adventure like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night? It so badly wants to be all of those things, but fails terribly. In the beginning you’ll rely on stale stealth mechanics to channel that genre for good measure. The stealth sections exist solely just to be stealth sections. There’s never a sense of urgency or danger, just “If I don’t do the stealth then I lose.” This goes against any successful concept of stealth as the enemies are not smart or really ever too much of a threat. The photography elements are worthless as well, as there are no point or upgrade systems. Your character will just comment on specific items you take pictures of, and they’re not particularly inspired comments either. Near the end of the game, you’ll have plenty of weapons and will be going Rambo on some zombies, but the controls are so mushy that it’s not very satisfying and makes the previous stealth gameplay seem even more cliche and needless. Oh, and the backtracking. Get a grappling hook? Time to backtrack. Find a gas mask? Better backtrack. With a game like Symphony of the Night, backtracking doesn’t feel so much like a chore because the gameplay is centered and focused to the point where it seems like natural progression. In Escape Dead Island, I couldn’t help but feel like it existed to pad more gameplay time on. The one somewhat unique thing this game has going for it is the growing insanity of the player character. As time goes on, his mind becomes more and more unhinged, as an increasing amount of hallucinations encroach into the game. It's actually quite interesting. However, Escape Dead Island's pacing strangles the one element that could have set it apart as noteworthy. For the first quarter or so of the game, the insanity elements are few and far between and although they grow in note, it isn’t until the last quarter that they really blossom, but by then the build-up was too much and I had grown tired of the whole thing. I won’t ruin it because it is genuinely the one part of the game I found interesting, but unfortunately it was too little too late, and too static of an experience. If there had been a sanity meter a la Eternal Darkness, it truly could have saved the game for me. The visuals at least are non-offensive. They attempt to replicate the cel-shaded comic book appeal, but in this type of game, which tries to tell a gritty and tragic story, the graphic novel look is a bit of an odd choice. Unlike Sunset Overdrive which reveled in its zany disconnection from logic and the real world, or The Walking Dead, where its graphics are an homage to its graphic novel origins, Escape Dead Island seems content to piggyback off of the popularity of cel-shaded games that are far and away better than it could ever be. Last, but not least, the replay value must be discussed. It consists of a host of audio files and data on BigBad Co. experiments and postcards. There are also a ton of pictures that must be taken in order to see everything. The collecting is not terrible, but it gives nothing in return as there isn't anything to really connect you to this world enough to care about the tidbits of info you're after. Unlike the random notes and books in Dragon Age: Inquisition, or the audio logs in the BioShock series, I didn’t ever find myself caring enough to learn more about these people, thus making the collectibles completely superfluous. Escape Dead Island is what would happen if after all the big AAA games were born, after the doctors all shook each others' hands and the bouncy babies went home, someone scooped up all the afterbirth and tried to cobble together their very own abomination. The game in and of itself is serviceable enough, but it’s the lack of any soul that makes it so infuriating to play. There are plenty of games that in theory play worse that I enjoy infinitely more. The first Dead Island was absolutely ridiculous and quite flawed in my opinion, but because I can feel the love that went into the game and thus the care, it's a blast to play in some areas because the developers cared if I had fun. Unlike its predecessors, Escape Dead Island feels devoid of heart or identity. It is a cruel reminder of the shovelware that plagued the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and the Wii and behind its generic facade hides a malnourished newborn of a game starved for nutrition and attention. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Escape Dead Island review photo
Run, you'll never escape
In my years as a freelancer and staffer at various videogame outlets, I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing a ton of great games. In fact, this year I had the privilege of reviewing pretty much every “AAA” game...

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